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HEC issues statement against own Chairman Dr. Banuri

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Chairman HEC’s Allegations of Interference in HEC, Universities Refuted by HEC, govt

Staff Report

ISLAMABAD: The ongoing power wrestling between the recently court-restored HEC Chairperson Dr. Tariq Banuri, the PTI governemnt and the HEC big-wigs has taken new surprising move as the Higher Education Commission’s Media Section has isued a statement against its ‘powerless’ chairman refuting his recent statement regarding external interference in the HEC and universities affairs.

“The Higher Education Commission (HEC) and the government refute the unfounded allegations levelled by Chairman HEC Tariq Banuri that there is external interference in affairs of HEC as well as universities.”  The press release issued by HEC ‘Media Section’ instead of HEC Director General (Media ) Dr. Ayesha Ikram’s name and designation as per routine practice, stated that “it has been clarified that the government believes in transparency in the functioning of all government departments at all levels, be it HEC, universities or any other institution. Since the Government took office, it has been ensured that the education sector, and particularly higher education sector, is provided all available resources. Autonomy of the institutions has always been respected. Prime Minister of Pakistan has himself taken interest in ensuring that every government department is free to function as per its defined mandate. Such unsubstantiated blanket assertions from Mr. Banuri are “inappropriate and irresponsible,” the statement said.

For appointment of vice chancellor or any other officer in the universities, there are set rules and all appointments are made on merit while following the laid down procedure. Similarly, for overseeing administrative affairs of universities, there are bodies like Syndicate and Senate that ensure implementation of policies in letter and spirit.

As far as HEC’s funding distribution is concerned, it is put on record that as well known to Mr. Banuri since its inception in 2002, HEC has a funding formula for disbursement of funds to higher education institutions.

Likewise, all development projects of higher education sector are duly approved by respective forums like CDWP, ECNEC, etc, and the process involves thorough planning before any project is approved and executed. “Whether it is establishment of university in the PM House or any other project, all projects are being planned keeping in view the national interest and by following all relevant rules and regulations.”

Dr. Tariq Banuri was appointed Chairman HEC in May 2018 by former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi for a four-year term and his tenure was due to end in May 2022.

However, he was removed in March 2021 by the PTI government as his tenure was decreased from four to three years through an amendment to the HEC ordinance. Dr. Banuri approached the IHC against his removal.

In June 2021, the IHC had barred the government from appointing a new chairman till the case is decided. In January 2022, Islamabad High Court (IHC) issued orders to reinstate Dr Tariq Banuri as the chairman of the Higher Education Commission (HEC).

On February 3, 2022  HEC completed the selection process for the position of Executive Director, and selected the finalists. However, it has sealed the decision until the legal process in the Lahore High Court (LHC) is completed. The HEC Selection Board conducted the final interviews for the position. The Selection Board finalized the top-scoring contender for the post of Executive Director HEC, as it conducted interviews of the candidates against the post at the Commission Secretariat. Five, out of 11 shortlisted candidates, appeared before the Board. As a petition regarding the selection board is pending in the Lahore High Court (LHC), HEC decided to announce the appointment of its Executive Director after LHC’s decision.

On Feburary 07, HEC members showing extreme level of displeasure over the decisions of newly court -reinstated Chairman of the Commission decided to take discretionary powers of Dr. Banuri and allowed the incumbent Executive Director Dr. Shaista to work until the new HEC chairman was appointed by passing a resolution with two-thirds majority.

They also declared the interview process for the new Executive Director as null and void. Federal Secretary for Education and Professional Training Naheed Durrani presented the resolution, which declared the selection and interview procedure unlawful and in violation of the HEC guidelines. The members, who voted against Dr Tariq Banuri, included Engr Farooq Bazai, Prof Dr Javed Iqbal, Prof Dr Atta-ur-Rehman, Dr Arif Nazir Butt, Secretary Abdul Saboor Kakar, Prof Dr Bhawani Shankar Chowdhary, Dr Akram Shaikh, Dr Nadra Panjwani, Dr Shaista Sohail and Dr Naved Malik.

According to media reports Dr Tariq Banuri alleged that the the resolution was presented at the behest of Dr Atta-ur-Rehman, and lacked legal basis. He said by passing such a resolution, members intended to reject the will of the IHC, which may constitute a contempt of court case. Dr Banuri advised Dr Atta-ur-Rehman and his friends to avoid such tactics because they will significantly affect the country’s education system. Dr Banuri urged Dr Atta-ur-Rehman to stop engaging in what he termed “irresponsible behaviour”. the members decided that Dr Shaista will exercise the powers previously delegated to the Chairperson HEC pursuant to the notification issued in February 2003, in order to ensure transparency, promote consultative processes, and the efficient and effective execution and implementation of all Commission orders, decisions, directives, and policies consistent with the true spirit of the Commission as defined in the Ordinance.

Earlier in April 17, 2021, Prof. Pervez Hoodbhoy article titled: “Exemption from Accountablity?” which challenged Prime Minister Imran Khan’s across the board accounability notion as just an election slogan.

He cited that: “The HEC chairman, Dr Tariq Banuri, was shown the door after he questioned the performance exemption given to three scientific institutions associated with Dr Atta-ur-Rahman, currently an adviser to the government and a former HEC chairman.

In doing so, Banuri crossed a red line. No charge sheet was issued but a hurried meeting of the cabinet led to his sacking. To avoid a legal challenge, a presidential ordinance reduced the HEC chairman’s tenure from four to two years.”

on April 22, 2021 reacting to the article Prof. Dr. Muhammad Iqbal Choudhary, the director ICCBS Karachi, issued a statement. He clarified that an article ‘Exempt from accountability?’ (April 17) which made several accusations about the International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS) and has wrongly linked it with the removal of Dr. Tariq Banuri from the Higher Education Commission (HEC).

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